Monday, December 05, 2005

JSB: Grow Wings

Goodness, Truth and Beauty are the divine triad of Western Civilization. And all three are under assault these days. The notion that these three are objective aspects of reality (rooted, for Plato, in "the One" and for Christians in God) is mostly pilloried now in the academy. The acid of this trend drips down to the culture and eats away at our triune foundations. Relativism is all that’s left to replace them. "That’s your truth," we hear. "I have another." To Plato, this would have sounded as absurd as saying, "That’s your sun. I have my own."

Of the three aspects, Beauty seems most subject to relativism. It’s common for people to disagree over this or that work of art. For one, a Jackson Pollack is beautiful. For another, it is the contents of a McDonald’s dumpster. Are we then left with no standards?

I don’t think so. Plato said that the contemplation of Beauty enables the soul to "grow wings." It expands the soul so that it touches both Goodness and Truth.

A work of art can do the opposite—it can contract and compress the soul so that it is only looking inward. It touches the baser desires. A porn film can be beautifully photographed, but it can never itself be beautiful.

That’s why a culture that rejects Truth and Goodness will inevitably become an ugly culture as well. It will not be able to distinguish, much less create, Beauty.

But that does not mean Truth, Goodness and Beauty cease to exist. God has built all three into the fabric of existence. "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows his handywork," the Pslamist declares. God has set his divine call in Beauty, but a soul that is determined to reject Truth and Goodness won’t hear it.

It’s time to hold up Beauty again as being rooted in Truth and Goodness. It’s time to loudly and firmly reject bad art for what it is, a rejection of reality. Let us dismiss the idea of relativism in art, that it’s all "only a matter of taste."

As Albert Mohler explains:

"The Christian vision of beauty opens an entirely new awareness for us. We now begin to understand that there is a moral context, a truth context, to every question about beauty. We can no longer talk about beauty as a mere matter of taste. Instantly, by affirming the unity of the transcendentals, we are required to see beauty fundamentally as a matter of truth to which taste is accountable, rather than a matter of taste to which truth is accountable."

In our art, whatever it may be, let us help our audience grow wings on their souls.

James Scott Bell –


At 2:13 PM, Blogger michael snyder said...


At 11:08 PM, Blogger Amy A. said...

beautifully written!

At 9:29 AM, Blogger Robin Cynclair said...

Well said! Thanks for sharing!


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